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Jimi Hendrix, with his virtuosic guitar playing and transformative sound, is undoubtedly one of the most iconic musicians of the 20th century. As with most artists of his caliber, collaboration played a pivotal role in shaping and expanding his musical horizons. One of the most profound collaborations in Hendrix’s career was with the exceptionally talented drummer and vocalist, Buddy Miles. Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles relationship, both as friends and musicians, brought forth a unique sound that marked a significant phase in Hendrix’s musical journey.

The Band of Gypsys Era

As a group, Hendrix, Cox and Miles were a tight unit and a natural fit. Through the Band of Gypsys, Jimi was unveiling the music direction that he was pursuing.
Band of Gypsys: Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox
Credit: Quora

In 1969, as the world was undergoing immense social and musical changes, Jimi Hendrix formed the Band of Gypsys, alongside Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on bass. This trio set itself apart with its funk and R&B oriented sound, a departure from the psychedelic rock for which Jimi Hendrix Experience was known. Much of this shift can be attributed to Miles and Cox, especially the former’s soulful drumming and distinct vocals. Their synergy is most evident in their live performances at the Fillmore East on December 31, 1969, and January 1, 1970. These performances gave birth to the “Band of Gypsys” live album, which includes tracks like “Who Knows” and the emotionally charged “Machine Gun.”

However, the Band of Gypsys was not limited to just live recordings. They collaborated in renowned studios like the Electric Lady Studios and the Record Plant in New York. Given Hendrix’s open studio policy, one can only imagine the number of spontaneous jam sessions and experimental recordings that took place during this period.

The Controversial Dissolution of the Band Of Gypsys

Despite the brilliance of their music, the collaboration between Hendrix and Miles in the Band of Gypsys was short-lived. An unfortunate incident at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1970, involving the alleged introduction of drugs backstage, marred their performance. Some claim that Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffrey, was behind this to sabotage the band due to his preference for the commercial sound of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience. While the specifics are debated, this incident played a significant role in the subsequent dissolution of the Band of Gypsys.

Did Jimi Hendrix also played Drums?

Jimi Hendrix playing drums.
Jimi Hendrix playing drums.
Credit: Pinterest

While Buddy Miles was an exceptional drummer, it’s worth noting that Jimi Hendrix himself dabbled with the drums. Renowned for his extraordinary guitar skills, few are aware of Hendrix’s rhythmic understanding and occasional stint as a drummer. There are instances during recording sessions where Jimi would play drums, especially when laying down initial tracks or demos. Although he was not a professional-level drummer, his rhythmic inclinations and the fact that he could play drums decently showcases the depth of his musical talent.

What’s the differences in Mitch Mitchell and Buddy Miles Drumming style?

Mitch Mitchell:

  • Jazz Influence: One of the most defining aspects of Mitchell’s style was his jazz-infused approach. This was evident in his fluid and often improvisational drumming patterns. He drew inspiration from jazz drummers like Elvin Jones and Max Roach.
  • Complex Fills: Mitchell was known for his intricate fills and rolls, which complemented Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic and freeform guitar playing. These complex patterns are especially prominent in songs like “Manic Depression” and “Third Stone from the Sun.”
  • Dynamics: Mitchell’s drumming often fluctuated in intensity, transitioning seamlessly from soft, intricate patterns to explosive beats, mirroring the dynamic changes in Hendrix’s music.

Buddy Miles:

  1. R&B and Soul Foundation: Buddy Miles had a foundation in R&B and soul, which influenced his drumming significantly. His beats were often more straightforward and groove-centric compared to Mitchell’s.
  2. Solid Grooves: Miles was known for laying down powerful, solid grooves that provided a robust foundation for a song. This was central to the more funk and R&B sound of the Band of Gypsys.
  3. Vocal Integration: Miles was also a vocalist, and his drumming often complemented his singing. An example of this is “Them Changes,” where his drumming and singing intertwine to create a cohesive sound.
  4. Powerful and Steady: While Mitchell’s drumming had a more volatile and fluctuating nature, Miles’ style was consistent and powerful, making him a driving force in the songs he played.

While both drummers played alongside Jimi Hendrix and contributed significantly to the music, their styles were distinct. Mitch Mitchell brought a fusion of rock with intricate jazz elements, resulting in a dynamic and improvisational style. In contrast, Buddy Miles offered a more grounded, R&B and soul-driven approach, characterized by solid and powerful grooves.

What was Buddy Miles’ band before joining ‘Band of Gypsys’ with Jimi Hendrix?

Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles, San Francisco, 1968.
Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles, San Francisco, 1968.
Credit: Twitter

Before joining “Band of Gypsys” with Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles formed and led “The Buddy Miles Express.” This band was renowned for its eclectic blend of psychedelic rock, funk, R&B, and soul. Under Miles’ leadership, they carved out a distinctive space in the 1960s music scene. Their signature style combined Buddy’s powerful drumming and unique voice with tight grooves, resulting in memorable tracks like “Train.” “The Buddy Miles Express” was a testament to Miles’ musical prowess, setting the stage for his later collaboration with Hendrix. Their contributions remain influential in rock history.

Did Buddy Miles write any songs while partnering with Jimi Hendrix?

During his collaboration with Jimi Hendrix in “Band of Gypsys,” Buddy Miles contributed as a songwriter. One of the most notable tracks he co-wrote and sang lead vocals on is “Them Changes.” The song speaks of heartbreak and the changes one goes through in life, accentuated by its catchy rhythm and Miles’ distinct voice.

The Band of Gypsys’ performances at the Fillmore East are legendary. Over two nights, they delivered a set of songs that would go down in rock history. “Them Changes” was a highlight, but the shows also produced other classics like “Machine Gun” and “Who Knows.”

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Band Of Gypsys 1970 Them Changes Live. A song written by Buddy Miles.
Is just a guy who got tired of bothering his friends talking about music, and decided to create a blog to write about what he loves the most.
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